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For the first time since he was elected House Speaker in 2009, Joe Straus walked into the lower chamber on Tuesday without a clear leadership challenger.
And two years after facing a rare contested vote for Speaker, Straus was re-elected unanimously by House members on the opening day of the 85th Legislature for a record-tying fifth term. He joins former House Speakers Pete Laney and Gib Lewis for the longest tenures presiding over the House.
Following the 150-0 vote, Straus took the oath of office and made clear in a speech to a packed House chamber what his legislative philosophy would be for the upcoming session.
“Compromise has become a dirty word in politics,” Straus said. “It’s a good word in this House.”
Straus has long been criticized by some in his party as being too moderate, drawing primary challenges from Tea Party candidates. But he’s easily held onto his San Antonio-based seat.
Straus’ easy re-election as House speaker Tuesday was a departure from 2015, when he faced a Republican challenger from Scott Turner of Frisco who forced the first contested vote for Speaker since 1975. All but 19 House members voted for Straus that year.
- Tribpedia: Speaker of the House.
Here's the language in the Texas Constitution that states how this is to be done:
Article 3. Sec 9. (b) The House of Representatives shall, when it first assembles, organize temporarily, and thereupon proceed to the election of a Speaker from its own members.
Here's a look at how he's been able to stay Speaker for so long:
- Analysis: Speaker Straus breaking a trend seen with his predecessors.
At a point when speakers are generally wearing out their welcomes, Straus faces less opposition than ever before.
He has avoided scandal. His Republican Party is firmly in control of both the state government and, more importantly, of the House itself. Turnover among his lieutenants has been low enough to keep things stable and high enough to allow him to bring new people into the fold. His opposition, almost all of it coming from the most conservative waters in the GOP pool, is noisy but small: In that 2015 contest against state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Plano, the challenger got only 19 votes.
He has quietly become a legislative counterbalance, and the House and Senate have switched traditional institutional roles. The normal formula is that the House is the place for hot passions and the Senate is where things cool off and get more careful consideration. In Texas, it’s now the Senate that chases flashy political issues and the House that slows things down.